Sunday, November 18, 2012

Us (Millennials) and our money

I like thinking about money, and about people, and making judgments, and (by the associative property) enjoy making judgments about other people’s money.  I really hate how taboo of topic money is, so I do my best to break down barriers by being obnoxiously open about my own finances.  Basically, no1curr and my friends roll their eyes at me most of the time.  On the flip side, I’m always excited when someone asks for advice or shares some awesome personal finance news with me (like maxing out an IRA!).  I can totally appreciate how awesome that is.

Whenever I get a haircut, hairdressers are shocked & appalled at how my hair is damaged and dry and needs more TLC.  They will then proceed to suggest some rather involved or expensive hair care routine that I should stick to.  I find this hilarious, because while hair is certainly a priority in this hairdresser’s life, and what they’re saying is probably correct, I so don’t care.  Of all the thinking I do, my hair gets a very very tiny amount of airtime – I shampoo/condition regularly to avoid needing to think about hair at all.  While in the shower, this is how I decided some people must think about personal finances.  Sure, it makes sense and it’s nice to save for retirement when you’re in your twenties, but it’s not a priority and maybe doesn’t seem reasonable when there are so many other things to do, and other expenses to consider.

I don’t know what’s wrong with me, why my hyperbolic discounting rate is different, and I actually enjoy contributing money to my retirement accounts (or at least, find it fairly painless & necessary).  But it’s interesting to realize that people in my situation (out of college for about a year and half) are in very different positions.  When you factor in amount of student loans, different work sectors & salaries, different educational desires (PhDs vs. masters degrees vs. neva eva going back to school eva), cost of living & lifestyle choices, there’s an incredible range of possible outcomes for net worth.

One regular ‘feature’ that I both love and hate in Glamour magazine is an ‘Are you normal for X’ page with various statistics and numbers about anything from credit cards to sex to dating.  It’s interesting to understand where you fall on the spectrum (yay context – the more numbers, the better).  On the other hand, it’s obviously stupid to concern yourself too much with what everyone else is doing (let’s face it, a) everyone else might be totally wrong, b) why would you think that the average American knows better than you what you should be doing).  I love getting this kind of financial info – I’ve been reading a fair number of articles recently on Millennial shopping patterns & behavior, as it’s relevant for some work I’m doing with clients.  I want that for money, as well!  Despite being a Millennial myself, it’s certainly hard to get a gauge on how we all feel collectively about something as loaded as money.

What do you think?  What are (our) Millennial saving/spending patterns like?  I’d assume most of us are confused about personal finances, occasionally annoyed by all our options &lack of objective and comprehensive information, and wonder if we’re failing at life all the time.  (Hopefully, that’s not just me.)


  1. I think what you said about everyone being in different places is really true, at least from my perspective. At this point, I make around $600/month and I'm not in a country where I have access to put it in any kind of bank account anyway. But as someone who doesn't really enjoy thinking too hard about money, I would say that I think personal finance should be taught in all high schools as a required course. The more you know about something, the less scary it is.

    1. Oh man, that is totally something I would love to do -- try to design a curriculum (or write a book) for high school students with what they need to know about personal finance. It's so ridiculous how little people are taught -- things don't need to be complicated, but it's easy to not think about money at all until you end up paying a lot for earlier mistakes, so why not help people avoid that if possible.